Fry Chips Away at Travelogue Tropes

Prime will relaunch its Prime Planet slot on July 17, with the premiere of the four-part Stephen Fry in Central America (7.30 Sundays).

Eight years after travelling through all 50 states of the US in a black taxi cab, the QI presenter steers a yellow bus through Mexico and the entire Central American isthmus, to the Panamanian border with South America.

“The most breathtaking scene in Stephen Fry’s latest travelogue was seeing him travel at 80mph down a zip wire across the biggest, deepest canyon in the world, the Copper Canyon in Mexico,” said The Independent.

“The sight of a national treasure crossing a global natural treasure at such velocity was a novelty, and all the more welcome for a format that has become, like an over-seasoned traveller, just a little jaded.”

“Fry didn’t quite subvert the [celebrity travelogue] genre but he was witty and honest within its tired bounds,” The Telegraph acknowledged.

“He was clearly upset by a street protest in Mexico City against the kidnap and presumed murder of 43 students last September. And he refreshingly broke the first commandment of travel telly – Thou Shalt Always Gush About Abroad – by pointing out that Mexico is the fattest country on Earth.

“Most celebrity travel presenters bring little to exotic destinations, except their famous faces. Fry used that planet-sized brain of his to enlighten and amuse the viewer.”

But The Guardian lamented: “For all of Fry’s subversiveness and curiosity, it’s hard to shake the sense that we’re firmly in Wish You Were Here territory, a picture-postcard documentary rather than anything truly searching.

“Fry might have time to watch a peyote ceremony or appear in a telenovela, but as he crosses the border from the States, the complicated, fascinating issues of border control are left unremarked upon.

“Later Fry is moved to tears while witnessing a demonstration in Mexico City against the devastating drug wars. It’s an affecting moment, but there’s no attempt to capitalise on it, to investigate and tell us more.”

The Daily Mail went even further in castigating Fry for his antics and attitude: “This air of stuffy superiority wafted everywhere with him, as he wheezed by like a visiting ambassador from Luvvyland.”

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